Hiya people! 🙂
The song I have for you today is from an album that, although recorded over 20 years ago, and released almost a decade ago, is very new to me, and even though it’s only the beginning of February, I feel very confident in saying that this is probably going to be one of my most exciting musical discoveries of the year. And not just the album, but also the artist behind it – Eithne ní Uallacháin. – Maybe there’s even some minor faza going on at this point, because I only came across Bilingua (that’s the name of the whole album) last Friday, and have now listened through the entire thing five times, not counting the number of times I’ve listened to individual tracks and other recordings by Eithne ní Uallacháin. It’s strange that, although I’ve been exploring Celtic music for years, it’s taken me so long to come across Eithne and her music, even though she is a very important figure on the folk music scene of Ireland. But apparently there is a right time for everything, so perhaps this was just the right time for me to discover her and appreciate her music as it deserves to be appreciated, perhaps if I’d come across it earlier, it wouldn’t have made as strong an impression on me as it did.
Eithne ní Uallacháin was born in Ballina in 1957. She grew up in an Irish-speaking and musical family as her father was a collector of songs from the Oriel area in Ulster and encouraged both Eithne and her sister to sing. She married fiddle player Gerry O’Connor, who was also her long-time musical partner, and together they formed a duo called Lá Lugh. Eithne was not only a very competent and expressive singer of traditional Irish songs, but she also wrote her own songs, and was not afraid to experiment with music, mixing old melodies with her own words or vice versa, and she sang in English and Irish. She also played the flute. In 1998 she began recording material for a solo album. At the same time, she was struggling with severe depression, which, if I understand correctly, was a result of, or in any case accompanied by, a debilitating physical illness. A year later Eithne very sadly took her own life. All the recordings of her vocals had been completed by that time. From then on, it was Eithne’s son, Dónal O’Connor, who worked on Bilingua , together with her producer Shaun “Mudd” Wallace. However, there were some contractual problems along the way, which is why it was only released in 2014, after fifteen years. It ended up receiving lots of positive attention from various media, both English and Irish.
The whole record is an absolute treat. It’s full of emotions and features influences from various other countries’ traditional music, such as Breton (thanks to guitarist Gilles le Bigot who also worked with Eithne on her earlier albums) Scandinavian or African. As I’ve said before, Eithne is an extremely expressive singer, which is something I always appreciate in folk music. There’s a fair bit of language play here, as Eithne smoothly switches between Irish and English, and sometimes into Latin. I like every single song on this record, which is why I had a bit of a hard time picking something, and why in the end I decided that tomorrow I am going to share one more song from this album, just so I don’t have to limit myself to one. 😀 For the first one, I chose the opening, tribal-sounding track, from which the whole album took its name. To me, it almost sounds like a tribute to language in general, which really appeals to the voracious linguaphile in me. I love all this energy flowing through it that sounds almost euphoric.
2 thoughts on “Eithne ní Uallacháin – “Bilingua”.”
So glad you’re excited about this discovery for 2023!
When you wrote about “the tribute to language in general” I began to understand why you were excited.
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Yes, Bilingua (as the whole album) is really exciting for me indeed, and this linguistic element to it adds to my excitement definitely, although it’s not the only reason for why I find it so interesting. Eithne’s music seems to resonate with me in general on a lot of levels, and I always like when I find something like this.